Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Crisco Olive oil review

This post is as part of The Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program

One of the pleasant surprise waited for me few days back as I got back home. It was from Foodbuzz. I opened it to find Crisco Olive oil samples. We all know how good olive oil is and the different health benefits of this oil. I was over joyed to be reviewing Crisco's Olive oils as I have always been buying their Canola oil. 

I tried all the three varieties. I used them up to dress my salads and dip my bread. The best was using the light variety which was truly so light. I used it for making curry and I could hardly smell the olive oil there. I even roasted some fries just to try this oil. You can never go wrong with baking the fries! 

I surely loved these varieties and the versatility of their use. Thanks Foodbuzz for this opportunity to try and review Crisco's olive oils.

Monday, August 29, 2011

August Fitness Challenge and detox - Week IV

Read the recap of week I,week II and week III.

This is the update on my last week with August fitness challenge and detox. With my last weeks slump and recovery with my health issues I started working out only on wednesday. Luckily for my Irene brought in some lovely weather. I prepped my mood to run outdoors. I think I have started to enjoy and love running more than ever. I am also discovering different roads around my apartment. It is definitely fun to keep running on a road and then realize how it leads you back to your destination. I enjoy the sight of golden sunsets and little wildlife like rabbits and squirrels around.

Monday           August 22nd      --
Tuesday           August 23rd       --
Wednesday      August 24th      Run 3.1miles
Thursday          August 25th      Run 3miles
Friday              August 26th      Run 3.6miles
Saturday          August 27th       --
Sunday            August 28th       Run 2.8miles

Past week also marked the end of my gluten free diet. How do I feel? Well as I wrote before I fell terribly sick. My stomach conditions worsened.  It got to an extent that I couldnt even walk one day. So next day I went and saw a doctor. With a number of blood, urine tests and X-rays I was told there is nothing quite serious. I was given some medicine to cleanse my stomach and other digestive organs. The next day turned even more unbearable. I somehow managed to survive the work day. This happened last Friday. By evening I felt better and I ran the longest distance of my life. For someone who couldn't run even for a minutes, running a 5K is great! This streak is only continuing and getting better. So final result I dont think I am gluten or lactose intolerant. Well it is my own diagnosis!
I celebrated the end of my gluten-free diet by eating you know what. Yes, more bread. I ate bread for breakfast to lunch to dinner! I missed you dear bread! I am one strong bread lover!
Also my level 2 with Jillian hasnt started yet. I get back to her from today. I am pumping up more strength based exercises to tone my body. September, bring it on. I cannot wait to unfold what lies for the next month. Excitement it is!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Onion Fritters for the rainy days

The east coast is all damp with the hurricane Irene having passed past us. Hope everyone is safe and there is as less damage as possible. I sat by the large window sipping a brewed tea watching the rain drop trickle down the window pane. I am from the South of India where we are used to 3 to 4 months of monsoon rains. I lived among the westerm ghats and the rains which started in early June wouldnt stop pouring till late August. Our lives went on with all the dampness around us. 

Rainy season as it is commonly known beheld some kind of excitement. With the schools starting by early June our start-of the school shopping involved buying plastic/rubber sandals and boots, raincoats, and new umbrellas, The rains were so heavy that no umbrellas lasted beyond a season. 

We walked to schools in the heavy downpour, our uniforms all wet with the rain. We attended the Independence day parades in rain, said national anthems on playgrounds which soaked in so much water that our legs almost got stuck. We played in rain jumping puddles. We built tiny stone dams on the flowing streams trying to show off our engineering feats. We celebrated Ganesh Chathurti singing praises for the lord in the rain. Rainy season somehow has more festivals lined up for the Hindus to celebrate. Heavy rains never disrupted our lives. It only got more interesting with all the different festivities and celebrations.Festivals in India means more feasts and more food.

Definitely this hurricane took me on a walk through the memory lane. One thing which most Indians always enjoy when the dark clouds loom in and start pouring. Hot chai with some fried pakodas. Pakodas are the deep fried onion fritters which are eaten as snacks with tea or coffee. I am sure there are enough Indian families savoring this dish right now watching the rain through their windows. Deep fried and calories? Well who cares? Sometimes the joy in simple things outweigh the calorie count and weight management plans.

Red onions 2 large chopped in long pieces
Green chilies 2-3(optional)
curry leaves 4-5 finely chopped
Besan or chickpea flour 1 cup
Salt to tste
Red chilli powder or paprika 1tsp or more if you skip green chillies
Oil to deep fry(canola or sunflower oil)
Baking soda(a pinch) (optional)
Ajwain(carom seeds) 1tsp (optional)

  • Mix the chopped onions, chilies, salt, paprika, carom seeds and the flour.Let it stay for 15-20minutes so that the onions leave water and help bind the flour.
  • Pour the oil into a deep frying wok and let it heat.
  • Once heated take 2-3 tsps of this oil and pour it on your flour-oinion mix. Be very careful as you handle the oil. This step makes the fritters crispy and avoids the addition of baking soda.
  • If pressed for time skip the above step and add a pinch of baking soda to the mix. You neednt wait for the onions to get watery. You can add little water and mix the mixture.
  • Once ready, use a spoon to drop small servings of the mix into the hot oil. Make sure you are frying in medium heat and not overly heated oil.
  • Fry until the jittery sounds reduce and your fritters turn lightly golden.
  • Take these out on a paper towel such that the oil gets absorbed.
  • Serve hot with some hot chai or coffee.

For the more health conscious ones like me, you can avoid deep frying. these fritters can be baked as well. Make sure you use the baking soda. Bake in a preheated over at 350F for around 15-20mintues or until the fritters turn lightly brown. the tatse of the deep fried fritters can never be matched but yes calorie counts do make a lot of difference. These can be served with tomato ketchup to add the sweet and sour touch of tomatoes.

Make these fritters right away and fill your lives with joy because you never know what tomorrow awaits. Pray for the safety of everyone who is threatened from the hurricane Irene.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August Fitness Challenge and detox - Week III

Read the recap of week I and week II .

I again took an unexpected break from blogging. There are excuses as usual,

  •  Work. Excessive work which sucked my energy. Trust me I still enjoy it.
  •  Health. Somehow my health has not been as good as it should be. I had more stomach issues re-surface.
Hence I took break from most of my normal activities like photography, blogging and working-out.
But I am back to my normal self and have been working out seriously.
Here is snap-shot of the week that passed. Thursday is late I know but nonetheless.

Monday            August 15th          30Day Shred Level 1
Tuesday           August 16th          30Day Shred Level 1
Wednesday       August 17th        -
Thursday          August 18th        -
Friday              August 19th        -
Saturday           August 20th       -
Sunday             August 21st        -

Yes this looks totally disappointing. But I made sure to eat healthy n kept myself on toes. This week will surely look better! I am onto level 2 of JM 30 day shred.
I am off gluten free food from next week. Well I will still continue eating as much whole and gluten-free stuff. I am going to write a detailed review next week when I am officially back to normal whole-wheat and whole-grain foods. Continuing to eat more salads and trying to sneak in more protein.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Black and White Wednesday Entry - 2

Its Wednesday again. Time for the Black and White Wednesday picture. This time I wanted to capture something very basic and looked around in my kitchen to find these Gluten-free Rotini pasta. The sunlight was streaming in through the wide windows in my house. Black and White and sunlight? I had to try it. Here is the picture. 

Regarding where my posts have been hiding? The answer will soon be out! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Masoor Dal - Red lentil Soup

One of my simplest foods which I enjoy eating these days is Dal with rice. This dal/lentil is very easy and quick to make. The days when I need a break from all the spicy food I reach out for this dal. It is one of my comfort food for sure. It is made out of Masoor Dal. Masoor dal are the red lentils. These are quite nutritious and easy to cook. I usually cook them in microwave. It only takes me 15-20minutes to make this dal. It can also be served as lentil soup wih some bread on the side. I served it with some microwaved papads.

Masoor Dal 1 cup
Water 3-4 cups
Red Onions 1 small-chopped
Ghee/Butter 1-2 tbsp
Cumin seeds 2tbsp
Salt to taste
Cilantro or Parsley to garnish
Lime to serve on the side

  1. Cook the Lentils in cooker/ microwave. For microwave wave add 1 cup of lentils to 3 cups of water, some salt and cook on high for 15-20mins based on the power of your microwave
  2. In a pad melt the ghee/butter, add cumin seeds and fry it lightly
  3. Now add the chopped onions and cook it until done
  4. Add the cooked lentils, adjust the salt and cook it until it starts to simmer
  5. Add water to bring the dal to desired consistency
  6. Add chopped cilantro/parsley
  7. Serve hot with rice or bread with some lime on the side

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Black and White Wednesday Entry - 1

Being part of the blog world you can rarely be unaware of different events hosted by different bloggers. One such blog has been The Well Seasoned Cook. I have been a follower of this blog and it has been one of my many favorites. When Susan hosted the Black and White Wednesday event I decided to participate. But somehow every wednesday I forget make a post and send in my entry. So this week I decided I am holding off on posting my recipes and will post a black and white picture.

You might have already drooled over the coffee pictures I posted as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker and Godiva Coffee product review. The above coffee picture was part of the many pictures I tried. I loved the touch of chocolate syrup on top of the coffee and this surely stands out in the black and white picture. Thanks Susan for hosting this event.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dal Makhani - The utterly butterly dal

Being a vegetarian poses me challenges in terms of getting in good amounts of protein. I do not stress over this but time and again I make sure I eat some good lentils and beans. Indian cuisine has a lot of lentil based recipes. If not I add some chickpeas or kidney beans to my salads. I also consume milk based products for this purpose.

One of the popular Dal or Lentil recipes is Dal Makhani which means buttery-lentils. Yes this is one of my absolute favorite foods. Serve me nice hot tandoori roti or basmati rice alongside this dal and I am one happy baby. Everytime I had tried making this dal at home, I wasn’t quite happy with the result. It just didn’t taste as good as my expectations. I wouldn’t dare post any recipe which wouldn’t even make me happy. But recently when I tried my hands at this recipe, I was on cloud nine. It just tasted right. I couldn’t stop eating it. So here is my recipe. This has been made based on a lot of online recipes and I wouldn’t find one single source for it.
Pick up some whole blackgram or urad dal next time you visit an Indian store. These are healthy with good protein content. I tried to make this recipe healthy with less ghee or butter or cream. But if you are not calorie conscious go ahead use some heavy cream and butter. It only enhances the flavor. Don’t be scared of the long ingredient list. It is going to be worth it.

Blackgram 1 cup                                                                            
Kidney beans 1/4cup
Onions – 1 medium sized
Tomato 1 medium sized
Garlic 2-3pods
Ginger 1inch piece
Green cardamom 5-6 pods
Black cardamom 3-4 pods
Cinnamon sticks 2-3 small
Pepper 3-4 corns
Cumin seeds 2 tbsp
Bay leaves 3-4
Coriander powder 1tsp
Cumin powder 1tsp
Red Chilly powder 2tsp
Salt to taste
Ghee/ oil/butter 3tbsp
Heavy cream – 3-4tbsp (optional)
Cilantro for garnish

1.    Pressue cook the Blackgram and kidney beans(if they are canned then they needn’t be cooked) with 5cups of water, salt, black cardomon(2pods), green cardamom(3 pods), cinnamon sticks(2) and bayleaves(2).
2.    Blend chopped onions, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger.
3.    In a pan, add the ghee or butter or oil. Add cumin seeds and fry until it turns lightly brown. Now add the remaining whole spices and lightly fry.
4.    Add the blended onion-tomato mix. Fry until the oil separate lightly on the sides. Add turmeric and remaining powdered spices and some salt.
5.    Now add the cooked blackgram and kidney beans(if using canned, add them directly now).
6.    Add more water if required, cook until the mix boils. You can add some cream now. If not add a spoon of butter. Butter and ghee really makes this dish. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August Fitness Challenge and detox - Week II

After all the I-miss-you-bread episode, I am getting stronger and able to sail easy through this gluten-free detox challenge. Surprisingly Indian food is an amazing treasures of different gluten free and vegan recipes be it the popular idli-dosas to complicated curries. So I am not seeing any difficult days. I haven’t eaten out since 2 weeks and it has been good on my pockets!
Workouts have been going good. There have been days when I totally wanted to skip working out. I have literally cried to make myself get up and do jumping jacks! Yes 30 Days shred has loads of them and I love the cardio Jillian makes me do. What I hate are those push-ups. I seriously cannot push myself up. I have always found this one exercise to be the toughest. I do see an improvement from Day-1 to Day 10. Yes today is officially the day 10. Today I wrap up my level 1 and get promoted to level 2 from tomorrow. I have had a preview of it and trust me it does not look good. More push-ups are on my way!
Here is my workout recap

Monday             August 8th          30Day Shred Level 1 + yoga for 20minutes
Tuesday            August 9th          30Day Shred Level 1
Wednesday        August 10th         Running 3miles
Thursday           August 11th         30Day Shred Level 1
Friday               August 12th         REST
Saturday            August 13th         30Day Shred Level 1
Sunday              August 14th          Running 3.3 miles + lots of walking

 I did not overload my workouts on few days. Work has been getting hectic lately and I could only squeeze in so much. Not so bad. Strength wise I see I am a lot stronger. I am yet to notice any big weight change. In terms of my health, I did see more stomach issues till Wednesday but later days have been quite better. I am still not sure what causes these issues. This week I am avoiding lactose. So buh-bye milk and cheese! So what gluten-free food did I eat during the weekend? I made akki-rotti or rice flour flat breads. These were quite tasty and easy to make. I did snack on fresh cherries and carrots!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Photo albums - a walk through the memory lane

Life has changed so much with all the technology and digital media advances. I remember spending my summer holidays flipping old photo albums of my parents. From black and white to the old style color photographs, it was excitement and cheer for us kids to look at the pictures. Each photo album held so many memories for my parents. These photos would just be a means to hear the old childhood memories. Be it family get-togethers or just boring Sunday afternoons, these photographs never failed to create a sense of reminisce of the past.  It was amazing how few pictures would create so much enthusiasm among the family members.

But for my generation I am sure most of the pictures are either on hard-drives or cd-roms. For few it is their facebook accounts. I am sure the fun of flipping pages is no more around nor is the patience to look at every picture.
Recently Foodbuzz offered another review opportunity for Kodak Gallery photobooks. I spent the past few days thinking what would be the best thing to be created out of this offer. Then this thought crossed my mind. I need to create an album of memories something which would never be made as a hard bound album. I picked up my latest trip photographs from Texas to California to New York; some wonderful memories which are so dear to me. All those exciting road-trips and breath-taking views. They surely needed to be printed and bound to make a souvenir.

I took around 2-3hours for making this online photo album, sorting through my huge collection of photos and selecting the few good ones. The interface is very easy and quite self-guided. I had as much fun as creating a scrapbook with all the cutting and pasting. Except this time I have no mess around me! I just had to select the different options and move through the pages adding pictures. I have ordered the photo book and within another few days I shall hold my wonderful travel memorabilia. I am excited about this! 

Thanks to Foodbuzz and Kodak, I shall soon possess a wonderful gift to pass on to my next generation someday. 
You too could make an album of your treasured photos. Make it a personal possession or a sweet gift for a loved one! Kodak is offering 40% discount to new users. Click here  www.kodakgallery.com. to avail this offer. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Its Coffee time

Who wouldnt love a cold glass of coffee on a hot summer day? Be it the chocolaty mocha or the latte, everyone has their favorite. I was brought up drinking creamy milk based coffee. My day started with a cup of coffee and I still find it tough to overcome my temptation to drink coffee whenever I smell the aroma of fresh roasted coffee beans. It is surely one of my favorite drinks. 

When Foodbuzz offered its publishers a chance to try Godiva's Coffee, I jumped to grab this opportunity. I love godiva choclotaes and would let go a chance to taste their best coffees. I was sent two packs of coffee, a Hazelnut creme and chocolate truffle. Both the coffees smelled amazing! I couldnt wait to try them. I brewed both the coffees but used two different techniques to make the iced coffees. 

Hazelnut coffee was mixed with very little milk and poured over ice cubes. This was served in a cute jar. I added some whipped cream on the top and some chocolate syrup over it. This tasted amazing. But I would personally prefer pumps of hazelnut added to my coffee separately. This flavor from Godiva still holds the taste of the hazelnut very well.

For the Chocolate Truffle coffee, I tried to blend some iced cubes and a lot of milk. I added 3tbsp of sugar to make two full cups of frappe based coffee. The milk created a lot of froth which was very good. I added some chocolate syrup over it to enhance the choclate taste and add the whoomp factor! This coffee tasted better than the iced coffee version of my previous recipe. Probably it was the way I made the coffee. All in all these coffees are surely indulgent. I am going to serve my special guests with more special coffee now!
This post was part of Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Godiva Coffee. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gluten-free eats

As I mentioned yesterday, I am trying to stay away from gluten for few weeks to give my digestive organs a break. This is quite a challenge in itself. My meals consisted of Indian breads or rotis with some kind of cooked vegetable curry. Breakfast used to be a piece of whole wheat bread topped with nut butter and a side of fruits. But now I can only say Miss you bread!
Here is what my breakfast looked like.

Todays breakfast included overnight oats. After a yearlong affair with overnight oats I picked up bread for my breakfast. But thanks to my gluten-free weeks, oats are back into my life, making me realize how much I missed cold creamy oats in the morning. They are the perfect quick breakfast which fill me up as well. I soaked oats in almond milk and left it in the fridge. In the morning I added 2 tbsp of homemade chocolate syrup(recipe post awaiting), topped it off with some fresh strawberries and nuts. Just the delicious treat to make my morning. On the side were fruits and some Pom juice.

Dinner included some more gluten-free food. Ashley from edibleperspective inspired me to make this gluten-free dinner. I added some yellow squash, baby tomatoes and frozen grilled corn from Traders Joes. I used up my drying basil plant and some fresh crushed garlic and pepper for spices! Did make me happy and miss my bread less!

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